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Amherst, we have a problem...

AMHERST – It appears the security of Amherst Insurance’s website has been compromised. Visitors to AmherstInsurance.net may be opening themselves up to a virus or other malicious code.

A Google search for the site produces a warning, “This site may harm your computer.”

The risk was brought to the attention of this newspaper by Mark McKinnon, a computer network technician who last completed a contract with the East Hants health authority.

“I was bored last night…just randomly went to their site,” said McKinnon, an Amherstonian who hopes to get into online security.

When his browser warned him about the site, he became curious and looked into it further. He discovered code related to a site called catlovermagazine.com, and couldn’t come up with a legitimate reason for it to be there. (Visiting either site mentioned in this article isn’t advised, especially for computers running Windows.)

“Anybody that has a Windows machine…could easily be infected.”

Depending on the nature of the illicit code, risks to infected computers could include providing a hacker access to personal information, including codes used to access banking sites.

“It can be quite common,” said McKinnon.

He referenced a number of high-profile cases lately, and expressed his belief a significant amount of recent hacking activity can be traced to China.

“A lot of it’s criminal,” he said.

Common it may be, by McKinnon doesn’t give the owners of Amherst Insurance, Johnson Insurance, a pass.

“(Customers) should have some animosity,” he said.

A large corporation should have someone on the ball regularly checking sites to make sure they’re secure, he said.

“As soon as I’m done here, I’m going down there,” he said, to Amherst Insurance.

“How secure is my information?” he pondered.

When Rick VanSnick, VP of Amherst Insurance, was phoned around 9:30 a.m. and informed by this newspaper of the problem, it was the first he’d heard of it.

“(The site’s) run by Johnson,” said VanSnick.

The VP provided the name and phone number of Johnson’s ‘technical architect’, Tim Hoskins. Hoskins was called at 10:22 a.m.

“It’s actually the first I’ve heard of it,” he said.

Hoskins had no comment at the time, but said his next step would be to correct the problem.


…A developing story


Twitter: @ADNsparling

Organizations: Amherst Insurance, Google, Johnson Insurance

Geographic location: China

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